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For a Civic and Constitutional Republic 


Issue No 66 Friday 13 May 2011

This Week

  • May Elections - How They Point to a Federal Republic of Autonomous Regions

  • Fortunes of super-rich soar

  • New Video on webite

News Stories

Highlighting news stories important to the Civic Republican view, particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.


May Elections - How They Could Point to a Federal Republic of Autonomous Regions

Peter Kellow writes

The 5th May 2011 elections had three big messages. (1) the Libdems support has been drastically reduced since the General Election of 2010, (2) electoral reform (at least as currently conceived by the Libdems and others) is on the back burner for a long while, and (3) the “nation” voted in a very regional fashion. In the last newsletter, No 65, I looked at (1) the demise of Nick Clegg and the Libdems. This week I will look at the last of the three – the regional question.

The pattern of the voting in the local elections shows a clear difference in the regions with devolved powers – Scotland and Wales. In Scotland the Scottish Nationalists under Alex Salmond triumphed and gained overall control of the Scottish Parliament. In Wales, we saw a less dramatic picture but one with a clear tendency to Labour who now control the Assembly there. These tendencies were for the most part at odds with what happened in the rest of the country.

In England there was clear difference between what happen in the north and what happened in the south. Labour was left with control of few councils in the south with all its power concentrated in the mostly urban areas of the north.


Blue: Conservative - Red: Labour - Yellow: Libdem -Black: No overall majority - White : no local elections this time

The Conservatives consolidated their support in the south of England with patchy support in the north of the country. In Wales and Scotland they were nowhere. Throughout the Kingdom the Libdem local control was reduced with most of their support remaining in the south and in the extremities of the Kingdom.

All the major republics of the world are federal republics, that is, they are divided into regions which have a greater or lesser degree of autonomy within the overall state. The reason for a federation rather than a single unitary state springs from the basic principle of Republicanism that there should be a Separation of Powers wherever possible. There is no area where this principle is more important than in the governing of regions and localities and all major modern Republics embody this principle.

America has its States with powerful tax raising powers. Germany has her Landers with control over major policy decisions. France has her Departments and its Regions, and crucially she has a very powerful mayoral system which brings elected power right down to local level. There is no country in the world were the crying need for a greater degree of regional and local autonomy is more evident than in the Kingdom.

The Kingdom has throughout its history has tended to become more and more highly centralized towards London. This tendency exists even more strongly now as pressure to develop London and the Home Counties continues unabated. The other regions suffer consequently and their character, their problems and their economies are little understood in the metropolis, even if it cares. The metropolis meanwhile suffers desperate problems of overdevelopment.

Much of the housing problem can be explained by this imbalance. Without proper regional policy houses become vacant in the North of England whilst there are not sufficient in the South.

The emphasis on London is due in part to its operation as an international financial center and the economic activity that this creates has resulted in successive governments biasing all their concerns towards it. The North of England and the Midlands have long had a bias towards industry. Other areas such as the West have a bias towards agriculture. Both industry and agriculture have been more and more neglected by the governments in London of whatever colour in favour of financial services.
The devolution of certain powers to the Scottish and the Welsh Parliaments is a reality. But the powers they have assumed represent simply the minimum London thought possible in order to preserve the Union. This is made clear by the fact that they unashamedly and blatantly have been given totally unequal remits! If the principle of devolution was thought right, why else would two roughly similar regions be given different powers? The difference is made clear in Scotland having a Parliament building costing over £400 million while Wales only merits one costing £60 million.

Meanwhile, England is thought not to merit its own Parliament at all. To try to paper over this disparity New Labour sought to impose a series of “regional assemblies” across England. These are cumbersome accumulations of five or six counties, that have no recognizable identity. Under the Conservative Localism Bill these assemblies will disappear

The metropolis itself has no regional assembly but it has the London Assembly headed by an elected mayor. Meanwhile Northern Ireland has a quite different power sharing arrangement that corresponds to none of the others.

To summarise we have the following. For London an elected mayor, for England a series of unwieldy, undemocratic regional assemblies (which are to be abolished), for Scotland a Parliament with useful but limited powers (of course, not including tax raising), for Wales a Assembly with very much less power and for Northern Ireland a power sharing assembly. An appropriate way to describe the regional government of the Kingdom is as a Pig’s Ear. Does anybody outside central government really consider these arrangements satisfactory for a modern state? And if such a hotchpotch existed in any other European state, East or West, how would we regard it?

A fundamental principle of a federal republic is that the autonomous regions that comprise it must bear the same relation to the centre and the same relation to each other. The only exception to this can be the central administrative and commercial capital. Thus to create a British federation we have to decide how the present nation should be divided.

The division of a nation into regions can be a sensitive issue as it is so easy to cut across deeply held regional feelings. The purpose of regional autonomy is not of course independence for the regions but to create a balance between central and regional power. In deciding the regions the follow principles should be fundamental:

  1. Each region must correspond to a long established identity that means something to the people who belong to it.
  2. The economy and demography of each region should be of such a nature that it admits of governing as a unity with a degree of autonomy within the Republic representing its own interests and traditions.
  3. The size of each region should be such that it represents a credible unit able to balance the power of the center, accommodate the power of the counties and local authorities within it and offer effective support for, and dissent from, the center and the counties as it sees fit.
  4. The regions must be of very, very roughly comparable weight, in terms of population, area, size of economy, number of counties and the existence of large cities, allowing for the fact that this principle will inevitably be compromised to an extent by principles one, two and three. There should not be a glaring, unsatisfactory disparity between the sizes of regions as this would deny principle three.

To decide what the regions should be, three already present themselves: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A more difficult matter arises with the rest of the nation, i.e. England.

We are so used to speaking of England as a single unit that we may overlook the fact that it is doubtful if it satisfies principle one, but let us return to this in a moment. It certainly does not satisfy principles two and three as it includes the massive center of London and it so big, diverse and elongated, geographically and economically, as to not admit of being governed “as a unity with a degree of autonomy” to “balance the power of the center”, as all attempts to reorganize regional and local government have recognized. It defies principle four on grounds of its relative size.

This suggests a division of England, but how?

The first division must be to make Greater London a separate region. It has its own problems and requirements and certainly its own economy and its inclusion in any other autonomous region would result in a top heaviness and preserve its dominance through its role as the seat of government.

Following the four principles above, the rest of England suggests being divided into the north and the south. This division satisfies principle one as the identities of each are quite different as all Englishmen know. Traveling from one to the other can be almost (but not quite) like traveling between different countries and the character of the peoples, whilst both admirable, are different. Broadcaster and writer (and northerner), Melvyn Bragg, has said “There's something about the North …. It's not a nation, of course. And it is part of England. But whenever you go there it's such a separate place.”

Principle two is satisfied as the nature of the economy of each is different and has been for some hundreds of years.

The equation of the north with industry and science might be facile and an over simplification but it contains enough truth to permit us to see that the north could benefit by having its own degree of autonomy, at last free of the constraints of London and the south, and able to decide in great degree its own destiny and rediscover its own character and strengths.

The south of England as a semi-autonomous entity could realise the undoubted virtues that it has always had and resist the massive pull from and subservience to London which has characterized it for so long and forced the creation of disadvantaged communities alongside prosperous ones.

London itself meanwhile will remain the dynamic engine it has become but would have to accommodate the new power of the other five regions. The drift of population, commerce, culture, industry and also banking to the regions that would undoubtedly occur would only benefit it and the quality of life for all.

To come back to the recent elections, what they show is clear tendency along the lines of this division. The regions of Scotland, Wales, Northern England and Southern England showed distinctly differing voting tendencies. The May elections give support to the idea that these regions could function as politically unified autonomous regions within the overall national Federal Republic.

Recommended article of the week


  • Fortunes of super-rich soar

The superrich are getting richer. The rest are getting squeezed. Everyone senses there is something wrong but no one bothers to ask why. It results directly from the economic model upon which the world is run that allows the creation of vast amounts of money that stays within the closed world of the international financial cartels PLUS the fact that the stateless superrich avoid tax

Read Article


  • New Video on webite

The website is developing. There is a new video now on the home page where Peter Kellow maps out some fundamentals of the Civic and Constitutional Republican agenda

View video

Last Week

  • May Elections and Referendum - Clegg Takes a Very Cold Shower Indeed

Comment from Mr.R.MacMaster Tuesday 10 May 2011
It has become apparent by the result of the election that the people of Britain are doing their talking with their votes, and I believe it is now more than ever that the republican party strike while the iron is hot. We are on the verge of a great transition in this country, the people have had enough of the puppet government running this country into the ground and undoing everything that many a great men and women have built for us. It time to shake off the dead weight of this government, and take a step back, and get back to basics, setting down new firm, stable foundations for the future.

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